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The Vampire Lovers (1970)

The Vampire Lovers (1970)

Movie Review

October just isn’t October without some good old fashion Hammer Horror Classic film. So today, I’m going to discuss The Vampire Lovers starring perennial Hammer diva Ingrid Pitt, Peter Cushing, Kate O’Mara, Madeline Smith and Jon Finch.

Loosely adapted from Sheridan Le Fanu’s short story “Carmilla”, the movie marks an interesting point in the Hammer series. For one thing, it is the first Hammer film that treats the subject of lesbianism (granted of a supernatural and predatory type) so openly, including some nude scenes. This film also marks the point in which later Hammer films would, unfortunately, focus their efforts less on the horror genre and more on sleaze in order to compete with some of the Continental horror flicks from that decade.

Before the title sequence we see the Baron Hartog (Douglas Wilmer) lying in wait at the Karnstein Castle as he narrates how a vampire killed his sister. He is there to avenge her death and end the vampiric reign of terror of the Karnstein clan. There’s a scene where he lops off the head of a pretty blonde vampiress with a sword and the imagery is undeniably phallic. Hartog admits to dispatching all but one of the undead Karnsteins.

The Vampire Lovers tells the story of a mysterious, beautiful, young woman (Ingrid Pitt) who through guile inserts herself into the homes of motherless young women who live with a paternal figure, either their father or an uncle. The girls gradually grow increasingly anemic and paler as they become more attached to their new “friend” who goes by “Marcilla”, “Carmilla” or “Mircalla” depending on the home she’s staying. As soon as the young woman dies, the smoldering sexy fiend disappears to look for a new victim in a different village.

Carmilla right before seducing the governess with a moon lit striptease

She manages this deceit and her predatory aims with the assistance of a countess (Dawn Addams) who is her entry into these genteel homes. The Countess is clearly under some form of hypnotic control not just of Carmilla, but also a sinister and cadaverous Dracula like figure garbed in black and red (John Forbes-Robertson) whose identity is never explained. Interestingly enough, while Carmilla seems to choose her pretty young victims to seduce and ultimately kill, she also seems to be following unspoken directives from the same unsettling figure.

The production sets are pretty impressive with some outstanding castle interiors, locations and the ambiance and mood of fog filled forests is just pure Gothic fare.

While The Vampire Lovers will never claim classic movie status, it is without doubt a classic Hammer film in all its glorious fog and mist gothic moodiness with an added dash of tempting lesbian sensuality. And sometimes that’s more than enough especially for Halloween.
To order The Vampire Lovers on DVD from either Amazon USA, or Amazon UK click on one of the corresponding links below.


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